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PAST AND PRESENTISM: THE ‘PRECOLONIAL’ AND THE FORESHORTENING OF AFRICAN HISTORY*

  • RICHARD REID (a1)
  • DOI: http://dx.doi.org/10.1017/S0021853711000223
  • Published online: 01 August 2011
Abstract
ABSTRACT

This article considers the marginalization of precolonial history from mainstream Africanist scholarship in recent decades, and argues that this can be understood in the context of a scholarly culture that attributes an exaggerated significance to the history of the twentieth century. The article highlights some of the work that continues to be done on Africa's deeper past, with a view to demonstrating the enormous value of such research in elucidating present-day issues. It also argues, however, that work on the modern period is preponderant, and that there is a clear tendency toward historical foreshortening, evidenced in recent scholarship on such topics as conflict and ethnicity.

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*Author's email: rr15@soas.ac.uk
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This list contains references from the content that can be linked to their source. For a full set of references and notes please see the PDF or HTML where available.

D. Schoenbrun , ‘Conjuring the modern in Africa: durability and rupture in histories of public healing between the Great Lakes of East Africa’, American Historical Review, 111:5 (2006), 1403–39

D. Nurse , ‘The contribution of linguistics to the study of history in Africa’, Journal of African History, 38:3 (1997), 359–91

N. Nunn , ‘Historical legacies: a model linking Africa's past to its current underdevelopment’, Journal of Development Economics, 83 (2007), 157–75

G. Austin , ‘The “reversal of fortune” thesis and the compression of history: perspectives from African and comparative history’, Journal of International Development, 20 (2008), 9961027

G. Austin , ‘Resources, techniques, and strategies south of the Sahara: revising the factor endowments perspective on Africa economic development, 1500–2000’, Economic History Review, 61:3 (2008), 587

‘Africa in the world: a history of extraversion’, African Affairs, 99:395 (2000), 217–67

Africa Today, 52:4 (2006), 146–9

T. Spear , ‘Neo-traditionalism and the limits of invention in British colonial Africa’, Journal of African History, 44:1 (2003), 16ff

C. C. Law , ‘Horses, firearms, and political power in pre-colonial West Africa’, Past & Present, 72 (1976), 112–32

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The Journal of African History
  • ISSN: 0021-8537
  • EISSN: 1469-5138
  • URL: /core/journals/journal-of-african-history
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